Patrick had been a phenomenal help and it had been lovely to meet his daughter, Mindy, in Atlanta. The push had saved me about a week of riding which I figured meant that I could spend more time in NYC/Boston assuming I get there. As I’ve rambled about before, the bike is just a vehicle to get me around and so taking alternate forms of transport isn’t a problem in my mind.
As we’d discovered back in May, Georgia isn’t really a state that believes in nice shoulders. When they exist, they’re about 2 feet wide and mainly taken up with a rumble strip. The first half of the ride took me through urban sprawl on my way out of the suburbs of Atlanta, there were definitely some rolling hills which after the flats of Florida were a welcome change.
I slowly weaved my way north and went past a surprisingly large number of people walking down the side of the road. Being in the US, seeing anyone walking down the side of the road outside a downtown area is kinda surprising, but seeing people on the side of a pretty busy road is even more so. They, people holding advertising boards and construction workers are usually nice to ride past as they nearly always acknowledge my presence and exchange a smile and a greeting. The bond that can only be built between two people who are outside braving the elements.
As I got north of I-75, the road gradually quietened and soon became a pleasure to ride. There were hills here and there, but they were much nicer than they’d appeared in the car the day before. I found that surprising as usually you have to ask cyclists how a road is to get an accurate reply. The drivers I’ve asked at least like to tell me that it’s basically flat and just 10 miles down the road which invariably leads to 20 miles of rolling hills.
Just below Chatsworth, I turned off the main road to ride up the back of Fort Mountain, home of Fort Mountain State Park and Dustin, my Couchsurfing host. They must have forgotten to put a railroad crossing on the road I was on, so I had to get off, make sure that there were no trains coming, and then push my bike up the rocks and over the tracks.
I then got the joy of riding up to try to find my way to the main road up the mountain. My GPS failed me for the second time and lead me along a road that didn’t exist, which dead-ended with a no trespassing sign and six dogs barking and yapping at me.
The next highlight was about 2 miles before I got up to Dustin’s. A black SUV came past me and then pulled over to a small part by the side of the road. The driver gestured me over, so I stopped and we spoke for a few minutes. It was a man in his late 40s and a lady of a similar age in the passenger seat. He asked me if I was part of the group who had ridden through the weekend before and when I told him I was just out for a little ride round his country, he mentioned he had a place nearby and that if I wanted I could come over and stay. If I’d not made arrangements, I’d have said yes, but I had to turn them down. We spoke for a little longer and then they drove off and I went to finish the climb.
I got to Dustin’s just before he got home and when he pulled in he was a little surprised to hear I’d made it up the gravel hill that leads to his place off the main road. One of the many brilliant things about my bike is the low gears and so I’d not really had any problems.
The evening with Dustin was so interesting. He was 24 and worked in nearby Dalton, home of the carpet industry in the US. He had been born and raised in the area so seemed to know everyone in town. He was full of stories about not only the area, but also himself and was incredibly open. The night ended with a good few games of Draughts (Checkers in America) which I’d not played since being a kid. Dustin was a gracious host and must have thrown the game several times. That or he was thrown off as he expected slightly more regular play rather than my almost random moves.
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